Incidents – Archery Competition

06 Nov

Some prizes are more valuable than others…

This encounter is intended for any number of characters of any level

As I mentioned, the tourney both in historical and fictional context is about more than just the jousting. There were plenty of other feats of arms, and they also make an appearance in common fantasy/medieval(ish) fiction. Like the grand melee that solidifies fan favorite Brienne of Tarth in “A Clash of Kings.” Or that famous archery competition from Robin Hood lore (your choice of anthropomorphic fox, swashbuckling black-and-white film star, or Russell Crowe). Or that famous pie-eating contest from a few posts back.

The tricky bit about representing a competition at the table is that it inevitably comes down to a lot of die rolls, and a dog-show style display of stat bonus superiority. Not every player at the table is excited by that prospect – though I’m certain you have at least one who is. The trick is to ground it in the characters, and to give the players options to tweak and adjust the circumstances of the competition to keep it interesting.

Don’t forget about the other competitors either! While it is likely that multiple PCs will be competing in the contest against one another (at least ostensibly, even if they ultimately share the reward) there are also NPC archers. As with the Pie-Eating contest, be reasonable when setting up the competition. In general, writing up three major competitors, each with an advantage and an exploit, creates an interesting role-playing possibility, and side-steps the problem of creating a boring “my attack bonus vs. your attack bonus” roll-off. But more on that later.

Knock, Draw, Aim, Fire!
There are three “rounds” in the competition, each a different distance from the target. Bear in mind the range increment penalties for the character’s weapon of choice (some enchanted weapons and feats may have an advantage in this competition. If the distances listed are just shy of granting a player a boon for having an increased range ability; adjust the distance so that the advantage matters in this challenge. After all, the point of having all those cool items and feats is so that they can come in handy!)

During each round, participating PCs make ranged basic attacks against a target (see below). You may opt to allow the player to make relevant Encounter or Daily attacks instead. Similarly you may opt to have the player “consume” an encounter or daily attack power to grant a +2/+5 bonus to the attack roll. Use your best judgement when adjudicating this – if the power would be considered cheating during a competition, its use will disqualify the PC.

-The first round has targets set 70 feet (14 Squares) away from the shooters
-The second round has targets set 150 feet (30 Squares) away from the shooters
-The third round has targets set 195 feet (39 Squares) away from the shooters

The “AC” of each target is equal to a Moderate DC +2 for the player’s level. However, the more accurate the hit, the more points it is worth in the overall challenge:

  • Hitting the target DC: 2 Points
  • DC +2: 4 Points
  • DC +5: 8 Points
  • DC +8: 12 Points
  • DC +10: 16 Points
  • DC 11+ (Bullseye): 22 Points

(NOTE: A roll of a natural 20 is always a bullseye)

Players may opt to wow the crowd by attempting a trick shot. Doing so incurs a -5 penalty to their attack roll, but will earn them a whopping 10 points for style from the NPC judges. Bear in mind that some of the NPC competitors may do likewise. Bear in mind that skills, and non-combat related powers might be applied to a trick shot. Encourage your players to be creative and reward creative (but not game exploitative) thinking!

At the end of the competition, the contestant with the most points is the winner. Runner up prizes may be handed out as per DM discretion.

The Competition
Setting up good opponents will be part of the fun in this encounter – especially if you have groomed your players to well and they opt not to allow their own rivalries to spill over into the contest! Though these NPCs don’t need full stat block, fleshing out two or three characters in brief will make the encounter shine. It is assumed that there are plenty of other contestants in the archery competition (and make sure to point this out – the players are special and should feel as such), but only the PCs and the all-star NPCs have any chance of winning the big prize.

Each opponent should have two qualities: an advantage, and an exploit. This permits you to give the NPCs a chance of winning/losing the competition outside of mere statistics, and allows players who aren’t doing the actual shooting to participate in winning the duel by working behind the scenes. To help you build your NPC rivals; below are (hardly exhaustive) lists of possible advantages and exploits for your players to interact with.

Consider giving the opponents attack roll bonuses equal to or slightly higher than those of the participating PCs.Generally speaking, this and perhaps their Insight bonus are the only stats you will require.


  • Raw Skill: The attack bonus of this NPC is equal to the highest participating PCs ranged basic attack bonus +3
  • Cheater!: The NPC is somehow cheating to win! The cheat can be noticed by a Hard Perception check. During the first shot, use Passive Perception (unless a PC is specifically seeking out foul play) During the second shot the PC (or allied spectators) may make a roll to detect the wrongdoing. The nature of the cheat will effect how it is detected. Some ideas include drugging competitors, replacing regular ammunition with faulty arrows, tampering with the targets, etc. Proof of wrongdoing will get this NPC disqualified.
  • Judge in His Pocket: The NPC has bribed a judge to give him high marks for his relatively easy “trick” shots and to poo-poo the feats of other archers. The PC’s must find this out ahead of time and deal with the judge accordingly.
  • Crowd Favorite: The NPC is a returning champion, and the locals love him. Each round he is cheered for, granting the NPC a +3 bonus on attack rolls. The PC’s must come up with a strategy to sway the crowd away from the champ, or bear the brunt of his advantage. You might opt to make this more severe by having the crowd jeer and boo the champion NPCs opponents, incurring a -2 penalty on their shots unless a Moderate Endurance or Insight check is made.
  • Imposing: Not only is this archer good, but he keeps shooting daggers at you with his eyes…and, might just do that literally too! The PC must make a Hard Insight, Intimidate, Endurance, or Perception check to avoid the glowering of this competitor, or else take a -2 penalty on their attack rolls!


  • Caves Under Pressure: A talented shooter when he isn’t trying to hard, but it’s easy to get in his head. If the PC complete a Complexity 1 Skill Challenge using Bluff, Intimidate, and Insight as primary skills, they will incur a -5 penalty to all the NPC’s shots.
  • Weapon Expert: The NPC is a marvel with a signature bow. He’s so accustomed to its weight and pull that he and the weapon are one. But put any other bow in his hand, and his performance degrades appreciably (-3 attack roll penalty)
  • Cocky: This NPC is so full of himself he knows he will win! Unless…he doesn’t! If the NPC does not make the highest score in a round, he is vulnerable to a Moderate Intimidate or Bluff check to play on his insecurities. If successful, he takes a cumulative -2 penalty for each round he does not make top score in.
  • Cheaters!: The PC’s cheat. The particulars are subject to the kind of cheating the players concoct, and getting caught means disqualification and public shame. Statistically, this will likely require a Complexity 1 Skill Challenge using Bluff, Thievery, and Stealth to accomplish.
  • Fall-guy: This NPC is not known for his honor, but for his greed. He would love to win; but if the PC’s can make losing seem more favorable, he would be happy to take a fall in the competition.
  • Man on the Run: Some of the archery contestants have checkered pasts. This NPC’s just might catch up with him if the PCs have any say in it. If they ask around, it will be revealed that this NPC is wanted by the law, debtors, a rival, or a criminal group. Finding a representative of that group and directing them to their target will remove this archer from the competition entirely.
  • Glutton: Even a fat man can have steady aim…assuming he can draw the bow over his gut! This archer is a voracious eater. If the PC’s can sucker him into overeating, he’ll throw his aim off, incurring a -2 penalty to all his shots.
  • Horny Goat: This young archer hopes to win enough fame to woo any woman he sees. However he is easily distracted by the wiles of lovely and interested women, and that just might keep his eye veering away from the target. If a PC can successfully seduce him (or hire someone else to) the contestant will take a -2 penalty to all attack roles due to his frequent flirtations.

(Apologies for all of the presumed male NPCs here! Pronouns were for convenience only; lady archers are more than welcome to be trounced by your PCs!)

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
As with the Pie Eating Contest, be sure that the reward for the archery competition is properly tempting. Magic items, raw coin, land, and even a chance to have an audience with a noble who has previously snubbed them (the noble will be personally congratulating the winner) are all good possible rewards. Tying the competition into your over-arching plot is also a valuable avenue to explore (Case in point, making it a means to get in touch with a VIP character, or to defeat a rival without resorting to politically caustic open combat).


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